The Voyager 2 Encounter with the Neptunian System

Science  15 Dec 1989:
Vol. 246, Issue 4936, pp. 1417-1421
DOI: 10.1126/science.246.4936.1417


An overview of the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune is presented, including a brief discussion of the trajectory, the planned observations, and highlights of the results described in the 11 companion papers. Neptune's blue atmosphere has storm systems reminiscent of those in Jupiter's atmosphere. An optically thin methane ice cloud exists near the 1.5-bar pressure level, and an optically thick cloud exists below 3 bars. Neptune's magnetic field is highly tilted and offset from the planet's center; it rotates with a period of 16.11 hours. Two narrow and two broad rings circle the planet; the outermost of these rings has three optically thicker arc segments. Six new moons were discovered in circular prograde orbits, all well inside Triton's retrograde orbit. Triton has a highly reflective and geologically young surface, a thin nitrogen atmosphere, and at least two active geyser-like plumes.